Archive for September, 2014

September 9, 2014

Schubert – Octet

Ah, Schubert. The Octet is a piece full of memories. Skipping lightly over the bad – such as the time my freshly-rehaired bow disintegrated by the end of the first page – this is one of those pieces that bring back lots of good memories of playing with friends and family.

Although the piece itself is a big play, the double bass part is relatively straightforward, giving enough time to enjoy what everyone else is up to. However, with all such pieces, there are little moments here and there that would benefit from some practice.

I’m using IMSLP for this piece, as I don’t have a bass part to hand. There’s a score as well as a selection of sets of parts – this is the one I’m looking at for reference.

1. Adagio / Allegro

OK, the fun bit is in the Allegro – a nice two in a bar – specifically, the staccato quaver passage:

Schubert Octet 1st movement staccato quavers

2. Andante un poco mosso

Don’t let this drag which it will, particularly if someone insists on it being counted in 6 rather than 2. Lots of flats in the key signature, but slow enough that that’s not a problem. Beware, though – there are moments where everyone else drops out, leaving the bass on its own! For example, second bar of B.

3. Allegro Vivace

A rapid one in a bar movement. Keep an ear / eye out for the different length quaver runs – sometimes you get three quavers running up to the bar line, sometimes four…

4. Andante – Theme & Variations

This is definitely 4 quaver beats, rather than 2/4, which is a relief, given that there are semiquaver triplets (and even some demi-semiquavers) in the offing. Keep it light.

Octet - 4th Movement, Variation 2

Note that the staccato marks disappear after the third bar (or 4th bar in some editions). I think this is an editorial thing, and that the whole passage is supposed to be staccato. (The edition I’m using here also stops putting in the triplet markings, but leaves the notes barred like that…)

I’ve failed to put in any dynamics. The variation is quiet, with just the occasional fp (which I haven’t put in the above excerpt…)

5. Minuet & Trio

Nothing to worry about here.

6. Andante Molto / Allegro

Allegro – this flies. Think 145-150 minims per minute. However, it does have a tendency to slow down – perhaps the leader is being over-ambitious, perhaps everyone is flagging a little at the end of a big piece.

Notes-wise – fortunately, much of this is doubling the cello… There are a couple of quaver flourishes, but nothing to worry about. Much. There are a couple of points where 4 bar rests are really two bars of GS (with a page turn for someone), then two bars rest where the viola kicks off the chugging before everyone else joins back in.

The Andante section near the end – there are differing opinions about whether this should be the same as the original Andante Molto, or something else. Me, I prefer the latter option, as it really would drag…

And finally, the Allegro Molto. Even faster than the allegro before, and with quavers. Lots of lovely quavers. Though the first lot aren’t as bad as the second lot in terms of rapidly changing positions…

Octet - 6th Movement - Excerpt

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September 1, 2014

Mozart – Serenade in B flat, “Gran Partita”, K361/K370a

The title “Gran Partita” is almost certainly not Mozart’s. And IMSLP has this down as K361 *and* K370a…

The Emerson edition, which we used, has this as a double bass part; some editions will say it’s a contrabassoon part. I suspect, however, that a contra-bassoon in any but the most experienced hands just wouldn’t be capable of getting round the notes – and I’ve never seen a contrabassoonist who was capable of playing pizzicato.

The first few movements aren’t so bad. However, the real trickster is (spoiler alert!) the 5th Movement (out of 7…)

1 – Largo / Allegro Molto

Some quaver runs – but they’re mostly scales or octaves, so nothing too panic-inducing. Watch out for the occasional change of key mid-run, where an E flat at the beginning of the run becomes an E natural by the end of it.

2 – Minuetto

Two trios, so keep your wits about you for the repeats.

3 – Adagio

Big, slow, long quaver arpeggio/chord-spreading/string-crossing stuff. I found this movement to be the hardest, physically.

4 – Minuetto

Another geographically-challenging Minuet with two Trios, including an impossible page turn in the edition we were using – Minuet on one page, and the two trios on the other. Needed a page-turner, as I didn’t have a photocopier handy!

5 – Romance

Tempo marking is Adagio, and you can see semiquavers…

K361 370a 5 Romance Excerpt 1

The movement starts off nice and gently, and you’ve got a few bars rest to look at them, and they don’t look like they’ll be too bad. The second block is rather bigger, but still doesn’t look too bad – after all, it’s Adagio, right?…

K361 370a 5 Romance Excerpt 2

Wrong. You, like me, have failed to notice that the tempo changes to Allegretto before you get that far, and that those semiquavers are actually a bit nippy. The runs are doubled with the bassoons. This might not be good news – mistakes are more noticeable!

Comments afterwards along the lines of “never seen a double bassist move so fast”. Thanks, guys, I think…

6 – Theme & Variations

The sixth movement is playable, but just be aware that you’ll suddenly find yourself playing on your own. Very exposed, but don’t worry! Think of them as the musical equivalent of a sniff put in between phrases. No, I’m not going to tell you which ones they are in advance.

7 – Rondo – Molto Allegro

Fast. So fast that if it were any quicker the clarinets would have real problems with their semiquaver knitting/noodling passages… fortunately, the bass semiquavers are restricted to a couple of scale-esque runs near the end of the movement. Again, they are in unison with almost everyone else, so people will notice if you get them wrong!

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